Two-Faced, Chapter 1

July, 2021





“Think he’ll do it?”

“He ain’t got the guts.”

  The preacher’s spine stiffened as the familiar voices volleyed in his head. They came unannounced and uninvited and at the most inopportune times. He vised his hands over his ears to stop the psychological ambush. Now wasn’t the time to prove them wrong. Revenge would come soon. But on his terms. And by his plan. Now he had to finish what he started.

   Shoving the voices aside, Drew Jamison shimmied across the stage, tapping his Bible. He shouted, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” Amens boomeranged through the sainted crowd, stoking a fire in his belly. He fiddled with his head mike, nudging it closer. Raising his voice, he repeated the words. Well, almost. He scissored out, “saith the Lord,” stealing God’s thunder. Would his fan base pick up on his subconscious announcement of getting even, settling an old score? He didn’t care. The line between right and wrong had blurred and gotten fuzzy.

   He’d been preaching, going on two hours. It was his last leg in a three-month crusade across the country. He’d begun the marathon in the Big Apple, skirted off to Minnesota, made several stops in sunny California, hurried over to Texas before winging back to New York. A diamond-shaped tour of the nation. And now he was ready to shut down. Cross the finish line. All good things had to end, right? He’d close with a prayer. Talk to the One in control. People liked that. He dropped a knee, wailed before God, and pled for mercy. Cracking his right eye open, he peeked at the crowd. He would have glanced simultaneously with both eyes, but that was impossible. His left socket pocketed a glass orb, a result of a childhood accident. Revving it up a notch or two, he thanked God for such a splendid audience. He polished his prayer off with a whispered “amen,” stretching the suffix out like a kid fingering chewed bubble gum. He plopped the mike in his assistant’s palm and scurried off the stage like a rat.

   His fire engine red Lamborghini squatted between the white stripes tagged “Performers” in front of Madison Square Garden. He jumped in, rammed it in reverse, backed out and slammed it in drive. Drew raced down the street, his headlights slicing through the thick night.

  Three blocks away on Fifth Avenue in the middle of Manhattan towered his thirty-five million-dollar penthouse. Drew slacked off the accelerator and coasted under the archway.        “Oscar the Valet,” with his perpetual grin, met the rolled-down window. Dressed in his customary white stiff shirt with black suspenders and red pants, he greeted Drew with a “Hope your night was great, sir.” His thumb swabbed his index and middle finger, hinting for a tip. Drew looked at Oscar, bobbed his head, and went inside the twenty-story home of New York’s wealthiest.

   Drew rode the elevator to the top. Stepping out onto Italian marble, he strolled to the front entrance of his six thousand square foot perch overlooking Central Park. He punched in the code, unlocked the door and swaggered over to the glassed wall of his penthouse. He gazed down at the Big Apple below, stretched out like a rhinestone blanket. Snapping out of his self-induced coma, he turned and walked to the master bedroom. Slinging his coat over a chair, he loosened his collar, and pulled the silk noose from around his neck. He’d just sat down on the bed when the doorbell rang. He jumped up and trekked to the wall and pressed the intercom.

   “Who is it?”

   A sultry voice answered, “It’s Kandi with a ‘K’.

   Drew pushed a button, releasing the lock.     “It’s open.”

   A blonde-wigged Kandi with a painted face stepped inside, walking her eyes over the penthouse view of the Big Apple. She liked what she saw.

   Drew said, “I’m in the bedroom.”

   She slinked into the master bedroom and found Drew sitting on the edge of the bed. She pranced over and raked her long fingers through his hair. Unbuttoning her coat, she slid it off her lean shoulders, letting it fall to the floor. Drew ogled his guest.

   “Tough night?” she said.

   “You could say that.”

   “Baby, I can make it all better.”

   The next morning an orange-yellow glaze swarmed through the master bedroom, stirring Drew from sleep. He rolled over and plopped his arm on the other side of the bed. He found it empty. Drew got out of bed, showered, and dressed. After eating a quick breakfast, he clumped to his office at The Empire State Building a few blocks away.

   Letters mobbed his desk, flanked by fluorescent orange post-it notes with a secretarial scribble. He’d spend the day answering fan mail, autographing pictures, and scheduling final interviews with reporters.

   Almost on cue, he jumped to his feet, halting the hypnotic movement of his swivel chair. He stepped over to the walled window overlooking Fifth Avenue. He looked down. It was St. Patty’s Day. Waves of human flesh wore different shades of the celebratory green. People bumped into each other, hurrying about to jockey in position for the annual parade through New York City. Drew studied the crowd, his gaze resting on a small boy who looked to be about six years old. The little boy chased his St. Patty's hat that’d kissed the pre-confetti asphalt, a casualty of a strong blustery north wind. His white-cottony hair tousled back and forth. Persistent little chubby fingers finally grabbed the hat’s brim, bringing it back to rest on his head. The little boy retook his place by his mother, gently nudging her waist, waiting for the celebration to begin.

   Drew Jamison turned his back from the crowd and the little boy and walked to his desk. Reaching over, he picked up a framed picture and stared at the image of two people. The man looked to be about six foot, three inches tall. His casual dress stressed his athletic build: wide shoulders, thick barreled chest, tapered waist, and legs resembling the base of redwood trees. His black hair had a slight curl that added to his handsome good looks. A tanned angular face framed warm brown eyes, a triangular nose, and lips that turned up into a broad smile. The woman standing by him looked dwarf in comparison. About five feet, two inches in height, the lady wore a yellow sundress that clung to her petite frame. Chestnut brown hair nudged her firm, strong shoulders. A slender nose with a smattering of freckles separated cerulean blue eyes that shot forth bolts of energy, flagging her as an extrovert. Thick, sensuous lips parted, boxing in a smile with a hint of mischief. And her dark complexion clued Drew in that she’d spent a lot of time outdoors.

   Drew took one more look at the picture and then sat it down on his glass-covered desk, adjusting it, making sure it was straight. The man and the woman were his parents. His dead parents. Drew bowed his head and prayed. He needed heaven’s help with what he planned to do.